Christine De Luca
The continuous variety of student life- from shared bedsits to field trips in the Alps- stood out for Edinburgh’s Makar, Christine De Luca.
|Christine De Luca
|MA (Hons Geography) and later MEd
|Year of Graduation
|1969 and 1980
Your time at the University
My parents both had a fondness for Edinburgh where they had studied; that whetted my appetite. And it seemed far enough away from home (Shetland) to be a little adventurous. I never regretted the choice: there was plenty flexibility - I changed from an Ordinary to an Honours course on the first day of Year 3!
I enjoyed the physicality of the experience as much as the content - dashing between Geography in the historic lecture halls at High School Yards, English literature in a former church, Psychology in the Pleasance theatre, Mathematics in Adam House, Logic and Metaphysics in the new David Hume Tower (curiously the smell is still pleasantly the same today); to cramped tutorials in old tenements or sometimes in semi-cupboards with the lecturer’s dog under the desk. Not to mention the various libraries where we studied.
Geography field trips were a highlight - particularly one to the Swiss Alps. And near the end of term, when money was running short, we could buy egg and beans on toast for 1/4d -equivalent to 6p - in Wilkie House in Guthrie Street. I experienced living in lodgings (sharing a bed with a girl I had never met before - we remain good friends(!), living in a flat and also having a bed-sit in a Student House.
A particular memory is of Professor Wreford Watson playing us cowboy songs when we were studying ‘General Geography’ in our first year, presumably about the settlement of the Plains of the USA! And talking of song, I also remember the English Literature class being regaled with Border ballads by the wonderful Jean Redpath.
It was the late 60s and Malcolm Muggeridge was railing against students - a time of social change. But we were still only allowed into the Men’s Union (Teviot) for debates and the occasional dance and I can’t remember men ever being allowed into the Women’s Union in Chambers Street! That was where my fellow Shetland students used to drool communally over The Shetland Times, when one or other of us was sent a weekly newspaper from ‘home’. Our new ‘Sooth’ friends would mock us as we quickly reverted to our dialect. Much better than Vogue magazine which could be found on the coffee tables! We got back to Shetland three times a year.
Generally I worked as a maid in the local hospital over the long summer vacation.
Your Experiences since leaving the University
I had always wanted to teach, so my undergraduate degree was a great basis for teaching geography. It was a time of rapid development in education: the raising of the school leaving age to 16; the introduction of comprehensive education; and mixed-ability teaching in secondary classes. I got involved with research into styles of teaching and learning and that led 10 years later to my MEd, focussing on Educational Research.
I then worked on a research project in the Education Department for 3 years, exploring assessment techniques suitable for the whole ability range. (The Munn and Dunning reforms were about to be rolled out).
After that I moved to the Scottish Examination Board (later becoming the SQA) as a researcher and remained there until I retired as Head of Assessment Research and Development. I was very fortunate all my working life in having challenging work I enjoyed and talented colleagues.
It was the late 60s and Malcolm Muggeridge was railing against students – a time of social change.
For many years I spent any spare time I had reading and writing poetry (in English and in Shetlandic, my mother tongue). It has always been a love of my life. It was therefore natural that, when I retired, I devoted more time to this.
I have published a dozen books over the years, mostly poetry but also children’s stories and a novel, and have won a few prizes. Most recently my collection Dat Trickster Sun (Mariscat Press, 2014) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Prize.
Many of my poems have been translated into a range of languages and a French bilingual Selected, Mondes Parallèles (éditions fédérop, 2007), won the Prix du Livre insulaire 2007 pour Poésie.
Various poems of mine have been selected three times for the Best Scottish Poems of the Year (2006, 2010 and 2013) and in 2012 one was selected for The Best British Poetry (Salt). I have enjoyed reading my poetry not just within the UK but also in France, Italy, Norway, Finland, Poland, Canada and India.
I recently became Edinburgh’s Makar (poet laureate).
Take time to discover all your various selves. You might be surprised!
Christine spoke with University Principal, Peter Mathieson, about early memories, unexpected generosity and maritime meandersings on our Sharing things podcast in early 2020.
This profile was submitted in early 2015.